Common Causes of an Ingrown Toenail

Common Causes of an Ingrown Toenail

An ingrown toenail happens when the edge of one of your toenails grows into the skin, causing irritation and pain. Left untreated, the nail will continue to dig into the skin and can become infected. 

At Concord Podiatry, David E. Biss, DPM, and our team are here to help you keep your feet healthy. Ingrown toenails are very common and rarely cause complications when dealt with promptly. In this post, our experts discuss the causes of ingrown toenails, how you can prevent them, and when you should see a doctor. 

Common causes of ingrown toenails

Ingrown toenails have several causes. It helps to identify any lifestyle or medical factors contributing to your ingrown toenails so you can take the appropriate steps to prevent them. The following are some of the most common reasons ingrown nails develop.

Ill-fitting footwear

Wearing shoes that don’t give your feet and toes the appropriate space can cause a number of problems, including ingrown toenails. Shoes that are too narrow, too short, or too tight can trigger ingrown toenails. 

Children and teens are at risk for ingrown nails because their feet tend to grow rapidly. It’s important to check your child’s shoes often to ensure that there’s adequate room and that their shoes continue to fit properly as they grow.  


Injuries such as slamming your toe against something or dropping an item on your toe can damage your toe or the nail and cause an ingrown toenail to develop.

Improper pedicure techniques

Pedicures can improve the appearance of your toenails. However, overly aggressive nail clipping can lead to ingrown toenails. If you regularly get pedicures, it’s important to visit an experienced nail technician and discuss any issues with ingrown toenails so your technician can take care with your nails. 

Conditions that cause poor circulation

Conditions like diabetes and peripheral artery disease reduce blood flow to your feet and may contribute to the development of ingrown toenails. Tell your doctor if you have a chronic condition that impacts blood flow to your legs and feet or if you’re a tobacco user.

Genetic predisposition

Sometimes, ingrown toenails run in families. If you have a close relative with ingrown toenails, you may inherit a tendency toward them. 

Tips for preventing ingrown toenails

You can take steps to reduce the chances of developing ingrown toenails. Here are some of our top tips:

Your podiatrist can examine your feet and provide individualized recommendations. 

When to see a podiatrist

Ingrown toenails often respond well to at-home care, such as soaking your foot in warm water and applying over-the-counter antibiotic ointment. Schedule a visit with a podiatrist if you’re in a great deal of pain, as this can signal an infection. Signs include swelling, pain, and the skin around the nail appearing red and feeling hot to the touch.

Anytime self-care measures fail to resolve your ingrown toenail, it’s time to see a podiatrist. You should also see a podiatrist if you experience recurring ingrown toenails. 

Help for ingrown toenails

At the office, Dr. Biss can prescribe an antibiotic if you have an infection. If necessary, he can remove all or part of the problem nail and discuss steps for preventing ingrown toenails in the future. 

If you’re dealing with ingrown toenails, we can help. New and existing patients can reach out to our office to schedule an appointment with Dr. Biss. We have two convenient locations: in Concord, and Plymouth, New Hampshire.

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